Donate Your Desktop raises $200k, founder wins Google innovation award

Donate Your Desktop raises $200k, founder wins Google innovation award

Turning the humble desktop wallpaper into an advertising channel in its own right has landed Nelson Rayner, founder of Kiwi startup Donate Your Desktop (DYD), the Advertising Club of New York's Google Young Innovator Award.

The Young Innovator Award tasks creatives under 30 to share their ideas of innovation on Google+. The projects with the most +1s on the social network move onto the next round, with the overall winner – in this case Rayner – receiving US$5,000 in prize money.

Rayner founded DYD in 2012. Through an app on the user's desktop, DYD controls the computer's wallpaper. Advertisers pay to be placed on these desktop billboards and users pick a charity to receive 75 percent of the ad revenue, creating a passive donation system which doesn't cost the consumer a singe cent. The potpourri of advertising, technology and philanthropy came out of a failed pitch for a client during his time at an ad agency.

So far advertisers have included the University of Auckland, Heinz Watties and MediaWorks. In its first six months, the startup had exclusive arrangements with Oxfam, WWF, Starship and NZ Breast Cancer Foundation as anchor charities. Since then, Make a Wish, Auckland City Mission and Amnesty International have been among those also in the mix.

The Australia-born 28-year-old founder is currently in the UK investigating a launch overseas. He tells Creativity Online the prize money is being used to fund that research mission.

DYD has just finished raising $200,000 in seed funding, all from New Zealand investors. Company director David Hillier says while DYD is still very much a New Zealand affair, this additional capital will help its expansion to Australia and eventually the UK and US. 

Currently DYD is hovering around 3,000 users and has raised $8,000 for its causes. Hillier admits this isn't as much as he'd hoped for, or the levels the company needs to be at to attract further investment. 

"New Zealand is small but we're committed to it. It makes a great local test bed ... If we want to see success overseas and get further funding, we need to show we can be successful in New Zealand," he says.

Hillier adds that DYD is developing better user targeting tools, methods for gamifying the promotion of charities and a mobile app with Sush Mobile. These new features should be live by September, he says.